Hush
by Anne Frasier, contemporary (2002)
Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-41031-9


Theresa Weir's new life as Anne Frasier gets a great jump start with Hush. No, it's not a romance, but the relationship between victim-turned-profiler Ivy Dunlap and burnt-out Chief of Homicide Max Irving can be romantic in a harsh, fatalistic, and warm in a platonic way. No doubt, given time, they will be the new Mulder and Scully trapped in a Millennium scenario, and what I wouldn't give to follow them there.

Besides, who says sex has to be all there is to a relationship? Hush made a perfect coup in not making Max and Ivy falling into bed just for the sake of it. Their relationship develops slowly and in its own sweet time, and at the end, well, it's probably only the beginning.

Unfortunately, Hush is a standard, derivative serial killer story. The serial killer has the usual Mommy issues ala Norman Bates. The heroine lost her son sixteen years ago to this killer, called the Madonna Murderer by the press, and now that the Madonna Murderer is back, she comes out of hiding to track him down one last time. Chief of Homicide Max Irving isn't pleased with who he perceives as an amateur disrupting his investigations (he doesn't know of Ivy's past history with the killer), but as he and Ivy work together, they soon learn that they make a pretty good team.

While the story is nothing new and even predictable, Ms Frasier excels in bringing out the claustrophobia and suffocation one could feel living in a bewilderingly modern environment where one is just another face among many. The killer is truly a horrifying figure, because the author creates a really dark and menacing atmosphere in her story. The Madonna Murderer targets single mothers and their babies - that premise alone is horrifying enough, but there are also gruesome depictions of violence as well.

Contrast that with the clinical, cold way the investigators deal with the murders. They have to be that way, of course, or they will surely go mad. One amazing thing about Hush is its ability to juggle between sympathetic and very burned out characters with a plot that sends chills down my spine. Maybe too well - this book also suffers from the addition of several characters who hog the limelight at several stages of the story, but they don't really contribute anything significant to the story. Maybe they are sequel baits, and maybe Hush is like the first episode of a more well-written CSI crossed with Crossing Jordan met The Profiler mated with Law And Order TV thing where we are given glimpses of future storylines of several secondary characters. I don't know, but I'll probably keep buying. Yet at this early stage, the clutter only distracts me.

To be honest, I don't find Hush spectacular when it comes to the portrayal of a serial killer. Yawn, Norman Bates to a T, been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and handed it down to other people. But what it excels is the atmosphere and the characters that I find myself caring about. Underneath the whole dark and anonymous sense of alienation and helplessness that permeates Hush, there is a human heart beating strong and well.

Rating: 88


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